“Community service”? Yep, mandatory (Update: they’ve revised)

Well, that didn’t take long. Coyote spots language on the Obama transition site that seems to make explicit what was left studiously vague during the campaign:

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year.

Update 12:15 a.m. Saturday: After my post was linked by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit (thanks!) and began drawing thousands of visitors, the Obama website administrators at change.gov silently replaced the “require” language with something new and different:

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free.

Robert Bidinotto noted the switch and Mike LaSalle saved the original page as a PDF for those who didn’t see it the first time. Glenn Reynolds did a second post taking note of the substitution and quoting the witty comment of reader Nancy Anne Potts: “Looks like the change.gov site is true to its title – it changes!” More: Acre of Independence. Update Monday: transition yanks entire “Agenda” from web, this section and others.


  • I think one reason many skeptics fear politicization, James, is that some past federal volunteerism programs, such as VISTA (later folded into AmeriCorps, I believe) did have a track record of assigning volunteers to highly ideological “community organizing” of the ACORN variety. For examples, Google “Vista” + “Sam Brown” or “Margery Tabankin” — yes, the material does date back thirty years, but sometimes old outrages die hard.

    Also, we’ve reached 100 comments on this and I’m going to open a new thread momentarily on national service, after which I’ll close comments on this one and people should continue the discussion at the other.

  • Hmm … I’m not convinced that community organizing is quite the same thing as political advocacy (overthrowing the government and advocating for/against abortion were your examples).

    Certainly I’m not arguing for doing that, and at a minimum tight controls would need to be in place to ensure that work didn’t involve political activities. Whether work can be said to be “ideological” is perhaps another matter.

  • […] of the day on the subject, namely that the Obama transition team’s Change.gov website flatly endorsed a mandatory, not voluntary plan, and then silently edited (and later yanked) its language when bloggers noticed. How misleading is […]

  • After more than 100 comments, I’m going to close this thread and encourage discussion of national service to continue here or (most recent thread at the moment) here.

  • […] Website of Change (change.gov) before the Change was changed by the big scrub. From Walter Olson at Overlawyered: Well, that didn’t take long. Coyote spots language on the Obama transition site that seems to […]

  • […] a shame most of the press remains incurious about that episode a few days ago in which talk of compulsory national service appeared, then vanished from the Obama site […]

  • […] of the nation.” Mr. Obama, his wife Michelle, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have all indicated support for mandatory service in the past, but even though both bills had broad […]